Review: The Long Shot

“Jack Adams works as a gamekeeper. The Great War has already started when a chance meeting with a serving officer introduces him to a new kind of warfare, sniping.” – Blurb

This is an incredibly easy-to-read fictional story of a young lad facing the atrocities of war, becoming a hero and a man, and yet still trying to have a life back home that he misses dearly. By all accounts, it would resonate with most soldiers and families at that time, and what Atherton does is create a world that you can become totally transfixed with. As a reader you find yourself routing for most of the characters and despising others because of their actions. Using real places and battles, the books is a reminder of the horrors of war and doesn’t let it slip past you that it is based on true events.

It can seem sometimes that accounts of history in fiction novels can carry a much clearer message than a memoir, diary or even photograph. The use of language can be interpreted differently in fiction and create deeper meanings and, I think, allows for a more thorough understanding of war. The freedom to be creative and use a whole host of adjectives can sometimes create a more vivid image than when just recounting factual events. Atherton does this brilliantly. In just the first page you conjure up images of the wildness of war in his comparison between the cold nights in France and the rabbits running wild at home. He shows very simply how easy it is to be so unlucky in war; “…it had been two days since that shot, the one that had had his name on it and which missed by less than an inch. Clearly, his name had been spelled incorrectly.”

Sometimes, though, the descriptions of war can become tiresome and I found myself flicking through pages to get on with the story. The constant use of the word ‘stupid’ to describe the war, although accurate, seemed lazy and irritating.

However, the general story was exciting, full of action, friendship, and heart-break. The story conveys Atherton’s in-depth knowledge of the subject perfectly. The need to find out what happens to each and every character means you won’t put this book down and leave it for a few days, you’ll want to steam through every page.

I don’t think that there is any age limitations on reading this book. Secondary school students should definitely be told to pick it up as it’s an effortless read that says so much so simply, and is akin to Michael Murpurgo’s Private Peaceful. Adults alike would be interested whether they have a passion for military history or not thanks to the personalities of the characters and how easy it can be to relate them to real-life. Highly recommended.

The Long Shot is the first instalment of the story, followed later by A Shot in the Shadows.

The long shot pb
Published by Michael Atherton
284 pages
October 2014

Available from and Amazon

You can also follow Michael’s official blog and Facebook.

Review: The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones…

… Confronting the New Age of Threat

Benjamin Wittes & Gabriella Blum

This book does exactly what it says on the tin. It covers new age threats from biowarfare to specialised robots with the prime purpose to kill. As the world faces new threats everyday, Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum open your eyes to killer insect drones, attack spider drones that equally match the agility of real-life arachnids, the simplicity of cyber warfare: no one is safe online, and how easily accessible a strain of DNA is – scarily so. If you weren’t paranoid about stepping outside your front door and being infected with a lethal virus, you will be after you read this book. The Washington Post’s review: “A lively and often terrifying exploration of the dark side of our technological age” is not far from the truth.

In 268 pages, the co-authors cover a lot, and impressively in-depth too. This book could almost benefit from being a trilogy, covering each topic singularly, rather than altogether. Its downfall is the chronology of events and topics – one minute you’re reading about the ILOVEYOU computer virus, the next something completely different. The four ‘threats’ get a little jumbled from time to time and can be difficult to follow.

Future of Violence

What this book does well is pose more questions than it answers. Whilst this might cause frustration for others, it allows for further research and heightens the interest in the subject.

By using everyday examples – part II, chapter 4 begins with an introduction to M’s character in James Bond – the ideas are put into perspective, allowing those less knowledgable on the subjects to have reference points, thus aiding a better understanding. However, some of the links between theories and threats are tenuous, for example, the Ancient Romans building roads: “a network of more than eighty thousand kilometers of passable stone roads…” (pg.177) are compared to new technologies of mass empowerment: “New platforms unleash human creativity and provide bases on which to build new frontiers of power and culture.” A simple and arguably well-linked idea, but a little far-fetched.

In reading this book, it appeared that it would be great as a reference, sifting through to find relevant chapters and theories rather than reading as a whole.

The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones not only has a very catchy title, it also cannot be criticised for its thorough research and in-depth study across history. This is a must-read for anyone with an interest in the future of warfare.

Released: 10th March 2015
RRP: £16.99
Publisher: Amberley Publishing
Author: Benjamin Wittes & Gabriella Blum
Type: Paperback
ISBN: 9781445655932
Pages: 324